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date: 17 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In the 1920s and 1930s several U.S. denominations endured controversy over doctrinal changes and the toleration of doctrinal differences. Liberals wanted freedom to adjust traditional belief to fit modern conditions and to unite with other denominations for concerted mission work. Fundamentalists wanted to enforce traditional understandings of the Bible and salvation, and (some) to maintain confessional identity. The contest within the northern Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) was the most consequential. Mingled with the doctrinal issues were the anti-evolution campaign and questions of denominational government and procedure. Conservatives lost when the large body of moderates—who were mostly conservative in doctrine but unconvinced of the menace of modernism within the denomination—swung to the liberal side to avoid division. When J. Gresham Machen, intellectual leader of the fundamentalist side, launched an Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions to rival the official denominational board, he was tried and convicted of the heresy of schism.

Keywords: anti-evolutionism, Auburn Affirmation, Harry Emerson Fosdick, fundamentalism, inerrancy, liberalism, J. Gresham Machen, Princeton Theological Seminary, Westminster Theological Seminary, William Jennings Bryan

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